Relief Nursery is devoted to keeping Lane County’s youngest children safe through a unique range of programs that build strong, resilient families. Founded in 1976 by Eugeneans, its leaders envisioned voluntary early intervention to prevent abuse and neglect, rather than simply removing children from their homes following abuse — the only option available at that time. Their focus is on preserving families with programs that support children and their parents alike.
Maggie Hitchko, Relief Nursery’s Community Engagement Coordinator, says, “We work with children and families in the earliest years, and that’s proven to have a lasting effect. And there’s a long-term impact on the community as well.” The results are profound: of the more than 1,000 high-risk children Relief Nursery works with each year, 97% do not require any reports to DHS after one year in Relief Nursery programs. And the organization’s impact is felt even beyond Lane County, with nearly 40 Relief Nursery sites throughout Oregon and recognition for its leadership and innovation coming from the state, national, and international levels.
The agency has grown from a tiny respite care effort to a comprehensive service organization that supports children under six with therapeutic classroom and in-home developmental programs, plus education programs that help parents cultivate nurturing family bonds. Relief Nursery also helps parents with mental health challenges, drug and alcohol recovery, and crisis intervention. As Hitchko reflects, “We use a holistic approach and meet the family where they are.”
Relief Nursery serves over 1,000 Lane County children annually. Most therapeutic classrooms run four days a week — the organization recently doubled in-class days — and recent fundraising successes like the 2022 and 2023 “Dodge for a Cause” events have enabled Relief Nursery to expand their parenting education programs.
Hitchko says, “All the families we serve are self-referrals. People often find us through word of mouth, or someone might have a neighbor or a friend who has used our services. Other agencies refer people to us too; one great thing about our community is how many organizations we have to help people.”
That strong spirit of community infuses Relief Nursery’s daily work; local volunteers spend nearly 250 hours every week in everything from classroom support, to helping in the kitchen, to raising money. “In Eugene, Springfield, and Lane County, we are saturated with people wanting to do good things,” says Hitchko, “The support of our community is how we’re able to do what we do.”
Those values also guided Relief Nursery when they chose Apex to be their trash and recycling company. Hitchko says, “The local connection is about supporting the community in every avenue possible. Choosing a local business is important to that. Even something as basic as trash collection is another way to support the community. And those local businesses also support us.”
Relief Nursery staff appreciate Apex’s neighborly attitude. Hitchko says, “We often have buses in the parking lot blocking the dumpster, and the Apex truck always waits for the bus to move. I think that is so kind. I know they’re on a schedule, but they are willing to take a moment so we are not stressed. They never rush us or make us feel pressured to get out of the way.”
The children enjoy the Apex truck too, says Hitchko. “Something I think is really special is that the kids look forward to trash pickup day! Teachers walk them out to watch it happen, and it’s really sweet. The driver waves and the kiddos wave.”
We’re proud to be part of the community working tirelessly toward Relief Nursery’s vision of safe children and strong families. We invite you to join us in showing up for Relief Nursery by making a donation or volunteering your time.
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